Another joint explore with Gibbo and R1.
Standing prominent on the rural south Lancashire flatlands, is a tall brick chimney and a Victorian flour mill. Probably the largest and highest structure between Liverpool and Preston, Ainscough’s flour mill was once a major employer in the quiet little town of Burscough. It closed in the late 90’s and is now listed, although it has been categorised as ‘at risk’.
I remember this mill from when I briefly worked in the food industry in the early 90’s, although I never visited the place. It’s location is such that it is adjacent to both the Leeds Liverpool Canal, as well as the Preston – Liverpool railway line. Flour mills tend to be near ports so as to be able to process imported wheat, I’m presuming that this mill is located here for historical reasons. It was built by the Ainscough family who owned, amongst other things, a windmill, so I’m presuming that with the rapid industrialisation and urbanisation of Lancashire in the 1850’s, the demand for bread and therefore wheat was booming. The Ainscough’s built another mill at Parbold, although I can find no evidence of this existing any more. However, the old windmill does still exist in Parbold.
The mill was quite a popular place with local kids and explorers, so an open fire exit door made for easy enough access into the area that housed the labs. This looked like it was possibly once a large house, or the company offices, it’s hard to say. The 1893 OS map of Burscough appears to show extensive gardens in front of this building, so it’s hard to say.
The site did appear to have some quite modern additions, this appeared to be an automated bagging and conveyor systems, as well as silos for the bulk delivery of flour. Whether this was a last-ditch attempt to modernise the site, or a re-clad older addition, I don’t know.
The mill itself was a labyrinth, and quite a dark, empty one at that. Much of the machinery had been removed, and the windows boarded up. This made walking round hazardous, as there were very large holes in the floor, which often went down though five storeys. Not something you’d want to fall through.
A highlight was climbing the mill tower, by way of a very rickety ladder. Well, the other two did, I was quite content with the view from one below the top floor, as the ladder was bouncing round even under the whippet like physique of R1. And jolly good views there were to be had, as mentioned in the introduction, this bit of Lancashire is very flat, and you really can see for miles.
Good old-fashioned red brick chimney, like all factories should have.
One of the last bits of machinery on site. This was stashed away in some kind of lab in a remote corner of the building. No idea what it was.
Some leftovers. The mill had been shut about ten years when we went round, so this stuff wasn’t in great shape.
Modern automated bagging system, palletiser and conveyor.
Control Room. I think this was for the loading of bulk tankers.
Looking up. Typical Victorian warehouse architecture.
Go sweep that yard!!!
The mill is still empty as I write this in March 2013, nearly 6 years after my visit. The site has been bought by a housing company for conversion into apartments, which sounds a great idea, I just hope it goes ahead before the place gets beyond repair.
3 Comments Add yours
Hello there. Your pictures of the mill bring back memories. I served in Lancashire Fire Service for 33years with my last 20 yrs at Ormskirk. Ormskirk Fire Stn covered Burscough. Therefore we carried out Fire Safety Inspections at the mill and I also attended 3 fires there. 1 whilst the mill was still running and 2 after it’s closure. The mill was considered to be quite a high fire risk due to the flour dust. This was due to the fact that if the dust became airborne during a fire, it was highly likely that a dust explosion would have occoured. Thr old “house part you mention did indeed have the remnants of formal gardens. Mill lane ran through the mill grounds and came out alongside the railway Stn (Ormskirk- Preston line)on Junction Lane.
Thanks for your comments! You’ve actually triggered my own memories of when I worked at the Sayers Bakery in Liverpool. It was here that I was first told about the explosive properties of airborne particles such as flour. Extra precautions were taken when unloading bulk flour from tankers, such as an electrical bonding (earthing?) line between tanker and silo.
Hopefully the developers who have bought Ainscoughs will be able to do something with the gardens, although I suspect it will get housed over.
My mum worked in the mill for years and worked in the offices which was the house on the grounds. I worked there when I was about 16 during school holidays. This was predominantly brushing up the flour dust as you say to avoid any potential dust explosions – sounds dramatic but it didn’t seem like that.
We were always mucking around the area with the railway and canal bordering the mill. I am glad the building is protected and didn’t ever get knocked down.